A to Z – Abracadabra to Zucchini
I titled this post Houdini Zucchini to pay tribute to this magically versatile veggie which provides endless creative inspiration in the Paleo kitchen and in our awesome Paleo Plan meal plans. Perhaps it’s zucchini’s firm yet yielding texture which holds up well under heat, but also easily blends into a creamy consistency…or maybe zucchini’s magic comes from it’s mildly delicate yet distinctive flavor which lends itself well in both sweet and savory dishes, raw or cooked. If you’ve ever grown zucchini, then you’re aware of the extreme bounty of squash one plant can easily and rapidly produce! There are endless reasons why zucchini is loved universally by foodies, and a seemingly infinite number of ways to prepare zucchini Paleo. Read on for 13+ delicious ideas for how to use up the last of the zucchini from your summer garden!
Zucchini is a type of summer squash belonging to the species Curcurbita pepo along with pattypan, yellow crookneck, and other summer squash varieties. Native to the Americas, the summer squash are closely related to winter squash, which are also members of the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae) and the genus Cucurbita. “Zucchini” generally refers to summer squash which are green in color and cylindrical in shape, but they can also be yellow, striped, or misshapen. Related varieties of summer squash are speckled or striped, round or flat, straight or crook-necked, and everything in between! While a sophisticated palate might distinguish between the many sub-species, most summer squash are deceptively similar in taste and texture and can therefore be used interchangeably. Most of the recommendations and recipe links below can be prepared with any type of summer squash, taking squash shape into consideration of course.
Houdini Zucchini – A Magical Fruit!
Did you know that zucchini is actually a fruit? Despite its popularity as a vegetable, zucchini is by definition the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower, botanically classifying it as an immature fruit. Zucchini is known by many names across the globe…Cucurbita pepo (Latin name), courgette (French & English) or marrow (a full-grown courgette), calabacín (Spanish), zucchino (Italian), or simply squash in many other countries.
Delicious and nutritious…despite their high water content (more than 95%) and low calories, zucchini are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, some B vitamins, as well as other antioxidant vitamins and minerals. The tender and edible skins contain the majority of these nutrients, so don’t peel your zucchini unless required by a recipe! Regardless of the variety, all summer squash can be eaten in their entirety (meaning their seeds, skin, and flesh are all edible).
13+ Paleo Summer Squash Inspirations
A picture tells a thousand words and below you’ll find 13+ inspirations for preparing Paleo zucchini and other summer squash dishes. I’ve included links to some fantastic recipes, as well as tips and tricks for making the most of your summer squash. Some of the pictures don’t have recipes, but I’m confident that you can wing-it by just looking at the pictures…click on them to make them bigger to enhance inspiration. Abracadabra! :)
But first…some quick tips on some basics:
- Selecting – Larger zucchini are more bitter in flavor and have tougher, more fibrous skin and larger, harder seeds compared to smaller (less mature) squash. Most chefs prefer to cook with smaller zucchini harvested when they are about half-grown before their seeds have hardened. However, larger zucchini are perfect for grating and using in baked goods (you’ll want to remove the seeds and skin first). In the Northern Hemisphere, summer squash are in season during the summer, and zucchinis purchased during the winter months are often supplied from Mexico.
- Storage – to retain nutrients and increase shelf life, you’ll want to clean and dry your squash before storing (moisture and dirt on their skin expedites spoilage). Fresh summer squash can be stored in a plastic baggie or tupperware container for about a week in the refrigerator. You can freeze summer squash for later use by cutting or grating it, then removing moisture by steaming or parboiling, then patting dry (applying pressure). Store 1-2 cups of prepped zucchini in tightly-sealed freezer bags (or ideally, vacuum-sealed) and it should last for several months. This website has more info on how to best prepare summer squash for freezing.
- Removing moisture – Because of the high water content, you may need to remove some of the moisture from zucchini before adding it to dishes where you don’t want excess wetness entering the equation (i.e. zucchini bread, casseroles, egg dishes, etc.). You can do this by sprinkling cut zucchini with salt, and letting it sit about 10 minutes before using it in cooking. You can also parboil or steam cut zucchini for a few minutes and then pat it dry, removing as much moisture as possible using a towel, cheese cloth, or a flour sack towel.
 OODLES OF ZOODLES
It’s easy to make long, thin zucchini noodles (AKA “zoodles”) using a vegetable slicer (AKA spiralizer) or a hand-held julienne peeler. Any ol’ vegetable peeler can be used to create long, thick strips (center picture). A mandoline slicer quickly and efficiently creates perfect circles and long lasagna-like noodles, as well as many other shapes. Zoodles are delicious eaten raw and garnished lightly or quickly stir-fried in a small amount of oil and topped with your favorite Paleo sauce. Check out our Shrimp n’ Zoodles recipe and our Quick and Easy Sausage and Pepper Bowl with Zucchini.
 BOATLOADS OF FUN!
To make zucchini boats: Trim the ends off zucchini and cut it in half lengthwise. Use a spoon or melon baller to scoop out the pulp, leaving a ‘shell’ 1/4 inch – 1/2 inch in thickness. (You can chop the pulp and use it as a part of the filling, or reserve it for another use). Season the boats with salt and pepper, and bake them at 350F for about 15 minutes, or until softened. (Baking times will vary depending on the size of your squash). Remove from oven, add your fillings, and continue baking for another 10 minutes or so, until zucchini is tender. Alternately, you can put your filling into the seasoned raw boat and bake the entire thing for about 30 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. Keep in mind that larger, more fibrous zucchini will require longer cook times. Zucchini halves can be stuffed with just about anything, like scrambled eggs and diced ham, taco meat or sloppy joe filling. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, these boats are a winner!
 STUFFED SUMMER SQUASH
Other types of squash are also quite festive when stuffed. Follow the directions above for zucchini boats, cutting your squash to best serve your needs. One of my favorite things to stuff squash with is our meaty Mexighetti Sauce.
 GRILLED TO PERFECTION
You’ll want to use thicker slices of zucchini for grilling, so that they don’t cook too quickly or get overdone. The skin of a perfectly cooked summer squash is firm, yet tender.
 KEBABS GALORE
Speaking of grilling…one of my favorite ways to grill zucchini is in kebab form! Spearing your zucchini rounds (like the picture on the right) will maximize surface area exposed to the grill. You can also prepare kebabs in the oven (this is how the salmon kebabs pictured left were made, using our Garlic Ginger Paleo Marinade). Or try preparing our Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Garlic and Cumin and adding rolled zucchini to the mix (pictured middle). There’s all sorts of creative and artsy ways to assemble Paleo kebabs!
 SOUPED UP
To prepare a basic Paleo zucchini soup (pictured left), simply saute onion, garlic, and chopped zucchini in a Paleo-friendly fat for about ten minutes. Add water or broth to cover, salt, pepper, and some fresh or dry herbs if desired. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the squash is soft. Blend in a food processor and voila! You can thin the soup by adding more water or broth, or make it creamy (my favorite!) by the addition of full-fat coconut milk. Round summer squash (pictured middle) can be used as a festive serving bowl for soup or dips as well!
 EGG-CELLENT ZUCCHINI
Zucchini for breakfast!? You betcha! Our Savory Zucchini Fritters are simply scrumptious (pictured left). Another egg-cellent recipe to try is our Sausage and Zucchini Breakfast Casserole (pictured right). You may want to strain the excess water from zucchini before using it in egg dishes (see info above and below for how to remove moisture).
 BAKED GOODNESS
Baked goods generally call for zucchini to be grated. Make sure to squeeze out as much moisture as possible from your grated zucchini before baking with it, lest your goods might get soggy. You can wring the water out of grated zucchini using a towel, cheese cloth, or a flour sack towel. Our new Garden Fresh Zucchini Bread recipe is here just in time to use up those overly-grown monster zucchinis from your garden, as these are best used grated. In the mood for muffins? Try our Zucchini Berry Muffins, or our incredible Egg-Free Pumpkin Zucchini Muffins!
 STUFFED N’ STUFF
The possibilities are quite endless…here’s more inspiration for stuffing squash in oh so many ways! I mean, who doesn’t love eating one food stuffed inside another (turducken anyone?)
 SAUTE ALL THE WAY!
To prevent your Zucchini Sauté from becoming a mushy mess, sprinkle cut zucchini with salt and let it sit for about 10 minutes before cooking. According to American chef Mario Batali, “It is important to get the zucchini crisp when you cook it; the trick is to move it very little when it first goes into the pan and to work in small batches.”
 FLOWER POWER
The flower of the zucchini plant (which emerges from the plant before the zucchini blooms) can be eaten as well! Choose blossoms that are only slightly opened, which can be found at a farmers market or health food store when in season. Common Paleo preparation methods include stuffing the blossom with a mixture of meats and vegetables, and then frying or baking.
 IN A PICKLE?
Summer squash can be easily pickled or fermented to extend the shelf life for several months. Pickling uses an acidic medium (like vinegar) to preserve the zucchini, which can then be canned under pressure to remove oxygen from the canning jar. The process of fermentation naturally produces lactic acid which acts to preserve the zucchini, in addition to supplying beneficial probiotics. There’s lots of great recipes online detailing how to make your own pickled or fermented summer squash.
 CREATE & CELEBRATE!
With its firm yet yielding texture, zucchini is easily cut into different shapes. I have a lot of fun in my kitchen shaping zucchini and arranging it artfully. It doesn’t need to take much time or effort…zucchini makes it ok to play with your food!
[13+] THAT’S A WRAP!
Just as there’s a million ways to stuff a squash, there are likewise an endless array of ways to wrap zucchini strips around things or conversely, to wrap things around summer squash. Which leads us to our final, and most obvious method of preparing zucchini… wrapped in bacon. Need I say more?